When I was ten I loved to write down who liked who. “David liked Joanne”. “Lori liked Jimmy”.
Then I would write down why.
“David would laugh every time Joanne would make a joke in class.”
I had a spiral notebook, about 8×11, and I pretty quickly would fill up all the pages and then start writing in the margins.
In other words, I had written The Bible.
I knew, or thought I knew, the tiniest flareup in our infantile hormones as soon as it happened. I was documenting first love.
My inspirations: Judy Blume (from “Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing” to “Forever” to “Wifey”), William Goldman’s “Boys & Girls Together”, and, of course, Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” (where the future could be predicted by statistics, an area of SCIENCE I was sure I would master when the time was right).
Not to mention I was a spy. So throw in “Harriet the Spy” and “The Great Brain” and a little mixture of James Bond (wasn’t my favorite at the time but still an inspiration).
And of course, I’d read the gossip columns in whatever papers my dad brought home. Who was kissing who?
I read biographies of Howard Hughes and began to stop cutting my fingernails so they would grow so long the girls in my class would ask me how I did it.
Howard Hughes was very private, charismatic, and eccentric. Judy Blume and William Goldman were all about boys kissing girls. Isaac Asimov had that predictive thing going on, Kitty Kelley gossiped, James Bond was a spy.
So I, of course, was all of the above. And ten years old.
I’d hide the words I was writing very theatrically so the people trying to lean over my shoulder could never see. They HAD to know what I was writing. Because it was about them.
I was writing the book I wanted to read.
Until one day I peed in my pants.
I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I had to leave my notebook alone. I ran to the bathroom and didn’t make it in time. I peed in my pants.
But it was too late. I dried myself. I ran back to the classroom.
I was ruined.
Everyone was reading my magic notebook. Everything that kept me mysterious and cool and knowledgeable and a WRITER and the one in the middle of every fact, truism, law that governed the miniature social interactions in the small circle of mini-humans I had known all my life.
Everyone was yelling at me. “GROSS!” Lisa would say. Jeff was crying at his desk because I kept track of how many times he cried at his desk. Lori was denying everything about Jimmy. David was denying everything about Joanne.
And I was betrayed. My best friend, Robert, had opened the notebook first. When I gave him specific instructions to guard it with his ten year old life. I suspect he is dead now since I can’t find him anywhere.
Mrs. Hilge finally had to stop the class and ask what was going on. Everyone was yelling at her and she did one of those adult, “ONE AT A TIME!” things.
The judgement came down: I was not to bring that notebook into class ever again. It was “over”.
So do it right now. Write down all of the things you were interested in when you were ten. I bet a glimpse of them can still be seen today in what makes your heart flutter. In what makes your brain gasm and gasp.
The seeds of our lifelong loves are planted right at that intersection of puberty and adolescence. The overlap of childhood fantasy and adult reality.
This wasn’t the first time I had written things down and it wasn’t the first time I wanted to entertain and excite the people around me.
And it wouldn’t be the last time I lost good friends and people felt disturbed and upset by what I had written.
But it was the first time I considered myself a writer.
And 35 years later, despite the often very painful diversions off the path, I still am.